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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

ECUADOR & THE GALAPAGOS

Gay and Lesbian Tours to Ecuador
This Ecuador & the Galapagos tour is an exciting addition to our South America itineraries.

The most attractive aspect of this trip is that it is not a cruise, but rather a land-based adventure that allows for more time and greater immersion in not only the natural splendour of this special place, but also in its unique and little-known island culture.

Unbeknownst to many is that the Galapagos actually supports a small human population, which it has since the early-to-mid 19th century. Subsisting on fishing turtles, lobster, and grouper, and small-plot farming and foraging, the earliest settlers - from Ireland, Norway, Germany, and mainland South America, among other places - established homesteads and small settlements, many of which still exist today.

Almost 60 years since 97% of the archipelago was declared a national park, four of the islands have permanent habitations and about 30,000 people live on the islands year-round.

Development is limited to the 3 percent of the islands that aren't part of the park and Galapagos's inhabitants live within specific urban and rural zones. Organized tourism began in earnest in the 1970's, and around 170,000 people now visit the islands every year, most doing so as part of a cruise.

Though cruising will always be an extremely popular way of visiting the islands and do a fantastic job overall, we are delighted to offer our travellers an alternative that allows you to see and experience what it's like to live on the islands, either as a descendant of the early settlers, an adventurous entrepreneur, or as an iguana!

This is why we call this an "experiential" adventure; on this special journey you will experience all that this incredible place has to offer the inquisitive visitor, while doing so in a way that promotes sustainable tourism.

Islanders who used to eke out a living fishing turtles are now your expert guides; the delicious cuisine that you will experience is, as a much as possible, sourced locally; and stringent rules about waste and recycling ensure a minimal impact.

Add to this a continental component, which provides a sumptuous glimpse into pre- and post-colonial times in the Andes.
GALLERY
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrival in Quito
Arrival to the Airport in Quito, assistance at the Airport and transfer to local hotel.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • Quito City Tour - Transfer to Hacienda
After breakfast, we walk through the landmarks of Quito's colonial, historical downtown, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We meet local artisans and immerse ourselves in the city's vibe. The walk begins at the San Francisco market, where the chef of Restaurant La Purisima will be join us. He is a very good story teller about local Andean products, unique Ecuadorian condiments, colonial time granny recipes, and enjoys sharing his passion. At the market, discover traditional Andean healing techniques.

We continue our exploration of the city's historical center as we walk towards La Ronda, full of art and ancestral trades, handcrafts, tin sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, Escuela Quiteña paintings and sweets shops. La Ronda is your opportunity to live and shop like a local.

The group will have lunch at Restaurant La Purisima, located at the entrance of one of the first theaters in Quito. Bolivar Theather has been an emblematic piece of art due to its architecture and recently reopened after refurbishing jobs. Lunch will be arranged in a private area where we will get an Andean cocktail demo and our chef will delight us with dishes that feature traditional cuisine with a fusion of contemporary techniques. Continue the journey directly to the highlands for our hacienda stay.

Please note that we tend to alternate between two hacienda properties on this tour due to consideration related to ultimate group make-up and size and room availability at the time that our tour is confirmed, we alternate between Hacienda Zuleta and Hacienda Mirage, both of which offer the same level of accommodation quality and a similar highlands experience.

Hacienda Zuleta is an impressive 4,000 acre (2000 hectare) colonial working farm belonging to the family of the late Galo Plaza Lasso, former president of Ecuador, for over 100 years.

Hacienda Mirage is perched on a hillside, where you will discover a hidden corner of Ecuador and a hotel imbued with the native flavour of the Andes. The property has stunning gardens and beautiful views of the mountains.

For full information on both options, please refer to our website.

Overnight at a Hacienda.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3 • Andean Hacienda & Otavalo Market - Quito (Airport Area)
Today we tour our hotel property and learn about its history and about the flora and fauna of the region.

We will also include a visit on to the indigenous market of Otavalo, famous around the world for their quality weaving. In early years the Otavalo Valley was filled with farmers who raised crops in fertile lands where they lived. In the 14th century the Inca expansion reached north into the Otavalo area. The Caraquis who inhabited the area resisted the invaders. For 17 long years, fierce fighting continued as the defiant Caraquis refused to be subjugated by the Incas. The Spanish arrived a few years after the Incas and established a Hacienda system of workshops where Otavalenos were forced to work 15 hour days weaving fabrics.

Today this weaving tradition forms the basis of a lucrative industry that has allowed the Otavaleno indigenous peoples to join the world economy while retaining their traditional values and skills. During our time in the valley we will have a chance to visit with the local Otavalenos and see them working their craft.

Due to our early morning flight to the Galapagos tomorrow, we return to the city for dinner and overnight (airport area hotel).

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 4 • Quito Airport - Fly to San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
Early this morning we transfer to the Quito Airport; flight to the Galapagos Islands (possibly via Guayaquil).

After a morning flight to San Cristobal Island, we’ll be greeted at the airport and head to our hotel. After lunch and a quick introduction, we begin our journey at the Galapagos Interpretation Center to learn about the unique wildlife, geology, history, and social dynamics of the Galapagos.

After our visit, we hike to Tijeretas along naturally formed trails of lava rocks. The path is surrounded by native plants such as Galapagos cotton, palo santo, acacia, and cacti. Along the way yuor guide will help you spot and identify blue footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, herons, gulls, warblers, mockingbirds, and finches in the vegetation and sea cliffs. Our guides interpret this amazing flora and fauna in the context of the island's natural history. We also enjoy scenic views of the rugged coastline and the tranquil town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

We cool off from our hike with a refreshing snorkeling session at postcard-worthy Carola Beach, surrounded by sea turtles, sea lions, and marine iguanas, as we bask in the setting sun.

After dinner, we’ll explore the friendly, laid-back beach town and stroll down the boardwalk to visit the neighboring colony of Galapagos sea lions.

Overnight on San Cristobal Island.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 5 • San Cristobal: Northern Coast
Today we explore the northern coast by boat. We visit either Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), Punta Pitt or Cerro Brujo (the visiting site depends on the week day and the Galapagos National Park regulations). On our exploration trip we make sure to search the nearby coves and cliffs for sea turtles, sea lions, frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, and Nazca boobies. Here we have the chance to get up close and personal with sea lions in their favorite playground. If you choose to snorkel, we might see eagle rays, golden rays, Galapagos sharks, starfish, clams, and thousands of tropical fish. If we’re lucky, we may even come across hammerhead sharks.

Our hosts on board will prepare a delicious "Ceviche", a typical Ecuadorian lunch. After a full day spent exploring the seas, we head back to the hotel for dinner and a well-earned rest.

Overnight on San Cristobal.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 6 • San Cristobal - Isabela
After breakfast, we say goodbye to San Cristobal with a quick small plane ride to Isabela Island.*

Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos and is still being formed by six active shield volcanoes. Isabela remains one of the most volcanically active spots on the planet. Upon arrival, we take short boat ride from town to Tintoreras, where we'll walk and have a chance to snorkel. These calm waters are the home of sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays and penguins. Tintoreras offers a high concentration of wildlife that will amaze you.

After going around on the boat and walking on Tintoreras itself, we can snorkel for a chance to marine life abundant in this bay. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in town.

We then set out on one of the most scenic walks in the Galapagos. Our hike takes us along immaculate beaches, into an alluring poison apple forest and a lava tube cave, and through brooding mangroves and brackish lagoons.

* There is a strict 12kg / 25 lb per person checked luggage limit, plus carry-on. Excess luggage can be securely stored stored in Quito.

Overnight on Isabela.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 7 • Isabela: Concha Perla & Flamingo Lagoon
This site is in Puerto Villamil, only a few meters from the El Embarcadero Port. A natural rock wall forms a circular concave bay-like structure that fills with ocean water according to the tides. It is a beautiful place in the bay of crystalline waters that is perfect for snorkeling. Dive in and explore these gorgeous waters while swimming with a variety of fish, sea turtles, penguins, and more. You can do snorkeling, diving or hiking in this area.

Our guide will take us to visit the Famingos' Lagoon. This is a approx. 2km trail where we will have explanation of the vegetation and geology of this young Island, Isabela Island. Arriving to the Flamingo lagoon we might be able to see flamingos feeding in this lake. This is an artificial lake, due to the excavation for construction the lake was made up by the rain.

Overnight on Isabela.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 8 • Isabela: The Tunnels & Tortoise Breeding Centre
After breakfast, we will visit a unique place in the islands, “Los Tuneles”. Our path starts on board our speed boat on a 45 minutes trop. Our experienced captain will securely lead us across the waves that normally hide this treasure. The Tunnels were formed millions year ago when rivers of liquid lava ran across the island reaching the coast shore. The cold water froze their superficial layer isolating the interior while liquid lava kept flowing into the sea. When the eruption finished, a hollow structure was formed and its wall later broke allowing water to come inside and creating a tunnel.

Our guide will join us along hundreds of tunnels while we snorkel and discover the marine life such as sharks, lobsters, penguins, sea lions, boobies, marine turtles among other endemic species from Galapagos. A snack will be served on board our boat. If lucky enough, we will have the chance to witness giant mantarays feeding in open waters. Afternoon return to Isabella.

Along the way to the Tortoise Center, we pass through a manzanillo forest surrounded by wetlands, home to the famous giant pink flamingos a delightful and unexpected sight for Galapagos. After a delicious lunch made with local and organic products, we head to one of the favourite local hangouts, Concha y Perla, for a fantastic swim and optional snorkel.

Overnight on Isabela.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 9 • Isabela - Boat to Santa Cruz
Wake up with the sea breeze as we travel by speedboat to Santa Cruz Island. After checking in at the hotel we head to El Chato in the Santa Cruz highlands to find the famous giant tortoise in their natural habitat. It is truly an honour to walk in the stately presence of these gentle giants, who can live to be more than 175 years old. We will also see pintail ducks, Darwin’s finches, frigate birds, egrets, and the vermillion flycatcher.

Our next stop is an organic farm dedicating their efforts to conservation and sustainable, organic permaculture. Their famed grown coffee has gained international attention and sold to exclusive buyers worldwide. We learn about growing coffee, organic farming, and why many farms in Galapagos are in need of restoration. We finish up on a beautiful platform overlooking the slopes of Santa Cruz while enjoying freshly-brewed coffee and fruit from the farm.

Overnight on Santa Cruz.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 10 • Santa Cruz - Baltra - Quito - Departure
We transfer to Baltra Island for our return flight to the mainland and bid a fond farewell to the Galapagos and each other. Connect with homeward flights.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are booking your own flights, please ensure that your departure time from Quito is no earlier than 9:00pm to allow for our incoming flight from the islands (most northward flights depart around midnight; an extra night can be added if you cannot find a suitable onward option).

BUEN VIAJE!
Meal plan: Breakfast

For detailed itinerary (PDF), click here
INCLUSIONS
  • Breakfast and dinner daily (hotels and restaurants) and all but one lunch per full tour day
  • Bottled water where required
  • All accommodation, transport (including internal flights), sightseeing and entrance fees for sites and activities noted in the detailed itinerary (including $100 Galapagos park entry fee, snorkel, and biking equipment)
  • We include gratuities for local drivers, restaurant staff, local guides, and porters (if available)
  • Airport transfers are included for land & air customers and for early arriving/late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us
  • Please note that due to the nature on internal flights, this tour requires a $1000 per person deposit
EXCLUSIONS
  • International airfare to/from the tour
  • Full-time Tour Leader gratuity, one lunch, bottled/alcoholic drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international air taxes (if applicable)
  • Airport transfers for Land Only customers
  • Optional trip cancellation insurance
  • Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and any locally-paid departure taxes
  • Please note that due to the nature on internal flights, this tour requires a $1000 per person deposit
OUT FACTOR
Along with other rapidly developing countries in South America, Ecuador is making great strides toward tolerance and equality. That said, the country is still conservative in general and gay culture remains largely underground and confined to larger urban centres. The Internet and mass tourism have brought awareness and greater acceptance with the increased exchange of ideas and exposure to alternative lifestyles. Keeping it low key, indifference is the worst we ever encounter; the norm is a warm and friendly welcome.
PLEASE NOTE
This itinerary is correct at time of publishing. For a more detailed itinerary, download a PDF here. We reserve the right to make changes as necessary due to reasons beyond our control. For booking terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Terms.
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TRIP NOTES
Group size
Maximum 16 plus Tour Leader
Staff & Support
Our small group and specialist nature of our adventure dictates the employment of expert naturalist/cultural guides and support staff, in addition to our Tour Leader, who will lead the tour from start to finish. Our 2021 trip will be led by Casey Miller.
Accommodation
Spectacular, special, unique, intimate, beautifully-located are only a few descriptors for our accommodation on this tour.

For our highlands experience on the mainland, we tend to alternate between two hacienda properties due to consideration related to ultimate group make-up and size and room availability at the time that our tour is confirmed.

On the islands our hotels are well-appointed, well-located, surprisingly plush and superbly-managed smaller properties with plenty of island charm. Please note that due to the small size of these hotels, there can be a range of different room types, sizes, and aspect.

For full information on hotels and a route map, please see the map above and click on "Sample Hotels" elsewhere on this page.
For hotel samples, click here
Transport & travel conditions
As opposed to our other programs in Ecuador and around the world, this one doesn't feature any long road journeys. On this tour we concentrate on smaller geographical areas, enhancing the depth of our experience rather than trying to cover as much ground and as many sites as possible. Local road transport is provided by van or minibus, and longer distances are covered by short-hop air connections and boat transfers. Because of the limitations presented by transport, boutique accommodation, and water-based excursions, we limit group size to a maximum of 16.

This trip also involves certain "soft adventure" elements that require a certain degree of physical fitness in order to fully enjoy our activities and excursions. While any mention of snorkeling is, of course, not mandatory, much of what the isles have to offer is underwater! If you've never snorkeled before, you mustn't be daunted. This isn't technical diving and all you need to do is paddle and breathe, often not very far from shore.

Our cycling excursion describes an easy, reasonable flat route along the coast. Just as with the snorkeling on offer, no experience is required for this or any other activity. The walks/hikes as mentioned are on well-worn trails on undulating terrain. Our pace is leisurely and plenty of stops are made over the course of a couple hours. Our guides will be able to assess your limitations and advise as to your suitability as the tour unfolds; however, in order to get the most out of your experience, a certain degree of stamina is important.

On the mainland, our activities are not "active" per se, but you should be aware that Quito and our Estancia are located between 2700-2900m (9,000-9,600 ft). Though most people are not seriously affected, we require that all participants submit a “Self-Assessment” form confirming their suitability for this journey.
Weather/seasonality
There’s no real summer and winter in Ecuador, and its weather generally varies by regional geography with temperatures determined more by altitude than by season or latitude. The warmest (by a few degrees) and driest months in the sierra (mountains) are June to September, though this is complicated by various microclimates found in some areas. Outside these months (when we schedule our tours), typical sierra weather offers sunny, clear mornings and cloudy, often wet, afternoons. We avoid the busy (and expensive) Christmas and summer school holiday seasons.

GALAPAGOS: As stated above, we avoid June, July, August and September and late December to January, peak seasons across Ecuador due to European/North American school holidays.

December to May are the warmest months in the Galápagos, with the wind dropping for calmer seas. Although there is also a greater chance of rain, these are the best months to visit if you’re spending any time on a boat. Wildlife is visible and active throughout the year in the Galápagos, although certain species and activities (such as turtles laying eggs and sea lions being born) are restricted to specific locations sad times.